In this vintage photo, Edward Partridge, M.D., reviews a map of Alabama and the target areas for the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement.

It has been 25 years since leaders at UAB recognized the need to address widening health disparities in cancer screening and treatment, and then took decisive action to address it.

The result was the creation of what is now the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. During its silver anniversary this year, the office traces its roots, development and impact on the communities it was designed to serve. This month, the office’s monthly newsletter, Community Connections, talks to a few of the pioneers.

Lillie Rucker (left) and Erma Coleman (right)

With certificates presented to smiling faces and poses for photos, several recent celebrations had the usual sights and sounds of a graduation – but with a twist. 

Drive-through gradations and socially distanced activities did not lessen the excitement of health advocates after eight weeks of training on chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Newly trained Community Health Advisors from the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center received their credentials for a new program to improve the health of their communities in Alabama and Mississippi.

Former SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Lillie Conway

After her mother died from lung cancer in 2011, Laronica Conway left her position as assistant commissioner for championships and sports administration with the Southeastern Conference for a new role in patient care, where she now serves as a research study coordinator at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.

The O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center welcomes six new faculty recruits: Bo-Ruei Chen, Ph.D., Maya Khalil, M.D., Katia Khoury, M.D., Victor Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Satoru Osuka, M.D., Ph.D., and Sravanti Rangaraju, M.D.

York Housing Authority

Leaders of the York Housing Authority are determined to bring essential health messages to their residents, even as they remain physically separated during the pandemic.

York, Alabama, housing employees participated in a virtual conversation this week with more than 100 other people about breast cancer detection, treatment and survivorship. “Sister Talk” was the first of two interactive virtual conversations about breast cancer presented by the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Loretta Herring

Loretta Herring’s soothing words of encourage­ment are among the last heard by thousands at the end of each night. Her commentary lasts fewer than two minutes but delivers enough solace to relieve the worries of the day.

A Community Health Advisor for the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, Herring is used to speaking at church gatherings and community events, large and small. Still, she never expected to become a welcome presence in cars and homes every evening with her “Kiss Moti­vational Moment.”

Nan Brown-Curtis

Cancer, including breast cancer, has been a constant presence in the life of Community Advisory Board member Nan Brown-Curtis and that of Community Health Advisor Darlene Robinson.

Her sister and niece both died of breast cancer. Her mother and two aunts were diagnosed with breast cancer as well. Her first husband died of lymphoma. Her current husband is a kidney cancer survivor and is currently fighting multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Brown-Curtis herself is also a survivor of colorectal cancer.

Francisco Robert, M.D.

It is with great pleasure that the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB announces the Francisco Robert, M.D., Clinical Investigator Award. This award will secure the mentoring and development of the next generation of clinical cancer investigators at UAB, UAB Medicine and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Charles Latham

Charles Latham can never forget the 16 men he has spoken to, one-on-one, over the years, about the need to be screened for prostate cancer.

They included friends and even two of his own brothers. Fifteen of the men heeded his advice and were tested, diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer. Still, the one man who waited too long to get his screening will forever remain at the forefront of Latham’s mind.

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center has launched a new program called O’Neal Invests that will fund UAB investigators’ preliminary cancer-related work and ultimately enable competitive R01 applications.